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More cars earn IIHS safety honors

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Posted: 6 am ET

Last week the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its list of the 2011 models that earned top marks in its safety tests.

In all, the IIHS named 66 vehicles Top Safety Picks, including 40 cars, 25 SUVs and a minivan. That number is up considerably from last year's list, which was smaller than usual because of tougher IIHS test criteria, including a more stringent standard for crashworthiness in a rollover:

At the beginning of the 2010 model year, only 27 vehicles qualified for the award, but the number grew to 58 as auto manufacturers reworked existing designs and introduced new models. Now another 10 vehicles join the winners' list for 2011. Two discontinued models drop off.

"In just a year, automakers have more than doubled the number of vehicles that meet the criteria for Top Safety Pick," says Adrian Lund, the Institute's president. "That gives consumers shopping for a safer new car or SUV -- from economy to luxury models -- plenty of choices to consider in most dealer showrooms. In fact, every major automaker has at least one winning model this year."

Entry-level cars like the Ford Fiesta were well-represented among the Top Safety Picks.

Entry-level cars like the Ford Fiesta were well-represented among the Top Safety Picks.

The two automakers with the most qualifying models were Volkswagen and Hyundai, each of whom had nine Top Safety Picks.

But they were far from the only standouts. In fact, the number of qualifying models more than doubling between the 2010 and 2011 model year is a testament to the vibrancy of the global automotive industry, which has shown a remarkable capacity to adapt to some really difficult challenges within one or two model years on a pretty consistent basis.

That's in part, why I think high fuel economy standards are such a no-brainer -- the expertise and ingenuity within the industry are such that even the toughest mileage standards have little chance of getting between auto companies and their profits, thanks to the efforts of thousands of brilliant automotive engineers worldwide.

Another thing that stands out is the number of really affordable cars that got the nod. It wasn't so long ago that if you wanted a car that was really safe, you'd need to shop in the luxury car class. Now, entry-level cars like the Ford Fiesta and the Chevrolet Cruze are among the safest sold.

Here's the full list of winners, in case you're car shopping right now:

Large cars
Buick LaCrosse
Buick Regal
BMW 5 series (except four-wheel drive and V-8)
Cadillac CTS sedan
Ford Taurus
Hyundai Genesis
Infiniti M37/M56 (except M56x four-wheel drive)
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E class coupe
Mercedes E class sedan
Toyota Avalon
Volvo S80

Midsize cars
Audi A3
Audi A4 sedan
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200 4-door
Dodge Avenger
Ford Fusion
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Lincoln MKZ
Mercedes C class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta sedan
Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
Volvo C30

Small cars
Chevrolet Cruze
Honda Civic, four-door models (except Si) with optional electronic stability control
Kia Forte sedan
Kia Soul
Mitsubishi Lancer sedan (except four-wheel drive)
Nissan Cube
Scion tC
Scion xB
Subaru Impreza sedan and hatchback (except WRX)
Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Golf, four-door
Volkswagen GTI, four-door

Minicar
Ford Fiesta sedan and hatchback built after July 2010

Minivan
Toyota Sienna

Large SUV
Volkswagen Touareg

Midsize SUVs
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Journey
Ford Explorer
Ford Flex
GMC Terrain
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento built after March 2010
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKT
Mercedes GLK
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Venza
Volvo XC60
Volvo XC90

Small SUVs
Honda Element
Hyundai Tucson
Jeep Patriot with optional side torso air bags
Kia Sportage
Subaru Forester
Volkswagen Tiguan

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